I don’t know how it happened, but autumn snuck up on me this year. I had a wonderful summer with lots of projects at work and at home, and two fantastic sunny holidays, but now suddenly we’re in the middle of October and I’m not sure where September went! I feel like this happens every year, where the months seem to speed up once August is done. The fall is over in a flash and we hurtle towards Christmas without coming up for air.
I’m making an effort this year to slow down a bit and savour this season. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors really, especially if you’re a hiking enthusiast like me, as the days aren’t too short, dark, or rainy yet to prevent you from going out and enjoying the crisp air and gorgeous colours. I had the opportunity to visit Chatsworth House in Derbyshire a couple of weeks ago and oh, the countryside there was stunning with the beginnings of the autumn foliage glowing in the sun on a cool day. If I’d had a bit more time, I would have loved to bring my hiking boots and head out across the moorland just north of the estate. If the picture below has convinced you to check out Chatsworth for yourself, scroll down to the end of the post, where I’ve added a little write up about visiting the house and the logistics of getting there from London.
In another effort to enjoy the best of the season, Sam and I went foraging for blackberries on Hampstead Heath. The wooded areas of the Heath are covered in brambles and in August and September they overflow with gorgeous, jewel-like blackberries. As with most public parks and paths, casual foraging is allowed on the Heath, but you should of course follow some common sense guidelines: pick only what you need, pick over a wider area rather than stripping one bush, be careful not to damage any other plants as you reach for blackberries, and leave plenty for the wildlife and other foragers to enjoy. I’ve also seen a few articles saying that foraging fungi is not allowed on Hampstead Heath (I’ve never foraged for mushrooms, but if you do it seems the Heath is not the place for that!).
With these guidelines in mind, we filled a tupperware with just enough to make a lovely blackberry tart. This recipe is based on a classic French fruit tart recipe (such as a tarte aux myrtilles or tarte aux prunes) where you use a short crust dough, fill it with fruit, and add a small amount of binding filling to keep it all together before baking. So simple (no pastry skills required!) and the fruit really shines. This recipe is adaptable to whatever seasonal fruit you are enjoying at the moment. Plums, berries, and sliced pears or apples would all be lovely here.
Foraged Blackberry Tart
adapted from this Saskatoon Berry Tart from Chocolate & Zucchini
For the short crust pastry:
7 tblsp (85 g) granulated sugar
6 tblsp (85 g) cold salted butter (or add a pinch of salt if using unsalted)
1 1/3 cups (170 g) flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar (or other vinegar without a strong flavour)
1 tbsp cold milk
For the filling:
about 1 1/2 to 2 cups (300 + g) of blackberries or sliced fruit of your choice. The weight and volume depend on the fruit you use (foraged berries are smaller than store bought ones, for example) so it’s hard to say. You want to fill your tart shell.
1 tblsp sour cream, creme fraiche, or whipping cream
1 tblsp granulated sugar
Preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F) and butter a 9 inch tart pan (ideally one with a removable base…otherwise you might want to line with parchment for easy removal).
To make the crust, beat the sugar and butter by hand or in a food processor until fluffy, then add the flour and mix until it forms coarse crumbs. Next add the vinegar and milk and just incorporate. The dough will be crumbly, but should stick together when you press it. Dump all the dough into your tart pan and press it out along the bottom and up the sides with your fingers, being sure to press it into the corners well and all the way up to the rim. Put the tart shell in the oven to blind bake for 20 min (this is how you avoid the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’ they talk about on GBBO!).
After 20 minutes, take the tart shell out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 180 C (360 F). Fill the tart with your fruit and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
To make the filling, in a small bowl, beat the egg and mix in the cream and sugar. After 15 minutes baking, take the tart out and pour this mixture over it as evenly as you can. Put it back in the over until this liquid is set, about another 15 minutes.
When the tart has cooled, dust it with a bit of icing (powdered) sugar, if you like.
Enjoy the tart and the season!
Visiting Chatsworth from London
I’m going to start introducing tips about day trips and other travels around the UK to the blog. Let me know if you find this useful! I’d love to hear if you’ve been to any of these spots!
Chatsworth House is one of the most famous and popular country houses to visit in the UK. The home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, this house dates back to the 16th century and is open to the public for much of the year. It was one of the first grand country houses to be rescued from sale or dereliction after World War II by making itself a tourist attraction and paved the way for other famous landmarks to do the same. The house is set in acres of stunning parkland and has a Capability Brown designed garden, and a world-renowned art collection (which was my main reason for visiting). They also host a staggering number of events during the year, such as exhibitions, country fairs, school holiday activities, etc. I had the most wonderful day there, attending and art-themed literary festival called Art Out Loud, which I could not recommend enough!
Traveling to Chatsworth for a day trip from London is doable, though next time I would look into staying over night. The easiest way to get there is to take a train from London St. Pancras to Chesterfield, which takes about 2 hours. Prices vary greatly, but it is always cheaper to book in advance rather than on the day. There is a bus from Chesterfield to Baslow, though this runs once per hour and leaves you about 2km from the house. I took a taxi from outside the station, which takes 30 min and costs 20 GBP each way (though split amongst 2-4 passengers, this would be much more affordable). You need to bring cash to pay for this! I recommend arranging for the same taxi to pick you up at a certain time, or taking down their number so you can call when you want to leave, as there is not a taxi rank at Chatsworth.
Admission prices vary based on what you want to see. The complete ticket for an adult costs 22 GBP, though there are reductions for students, seniors, family groups, and if you want to skip the farm and adventure playground, or just visit the gardens. A breakdown of these prices is available here: http://www.chatsworth.org/book-tickets-and-prices .
There are several dining options at Chatsworth, from carts in the grounds that serve tea and sandwiches, to a cafeteria and sit down restaurant. You can also bring your own food and picnic on the grounds.